Qualities of Residency Applicants: Comparison of Otolaryngology Program Criteria With Applicant Expectations

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To evaluate the criteria used by otolaryngology programs in ranking residency candidates and to compare residency candidate ranking criteria among otolaryngology programs and applicant expectations.


Cross-sectional, anonymous survey administered during the 2009 and 2010 match cycles.


Otolaryngology residency programs.


Otolaryngology residency program applicants (PAs) and otolaryngology program directors (PDs).

Main Outcome Measures

The PDs were asked to rank the importance of 10 criteria in choosing a residency candidate on a 20-point scale (with 1 indicating utmost importance; 20, not important at all). The PAs were asked to express their expectations of how candidates should be ranked using those same criteria.


The interview and personal knowledge of the applicant (mean rank, 3.63) were the most important criteria to PDs, whereas the interview and letters of recommendation (mean rank, 3.65) were the most important criteria among PAs. Likelihood to rank program highly and ethnicity/sex were the least valued by PDs and PAs.


Although PDs and PAs agree on the least important criteria for ranking otolaryngology residency candidates, they disagree on the most important criteria. This information provides insight into how programs select residency candidates and how this compares with applicant expectations. Furthermore, this information will assist applicants in understanding how they might be evaluated by programs. Improved understanding of the match process may increase the likelihood of having a good fit between otolaryngology programs and matched applicants.

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